Hi Darlings –
Here we go, heading directly into June Gloom!
Well, after all the fires in our hills and on our islands, I’m almost welcoming a few grey days just so I can catch my breath from all the excitement!
Speaking of excitement, I’ve got a couple of great questions from my younger readers this month that I’m dying to answer, so let’s get to it, shall we?
Hi, my name's Shahriar G. and I'm living down in the Southern Orange County area, and I just had a quick question. You see, I'm just starting to get into commercial acting. I've been in theatre for 2 years now, but I'm just 16. I want to start doing some film/tv/commercial acting this summer when school lets out, so I recently joined lacasting.com and I'm already part of Kids Management.
I've looked a lot into acting, but do I need to bring a parent down to the set with me? I drive, am almost 17, and my parents really don't want to have to take me up to LA (it's an hour drive but my parents are still pretty iffy about, especially with traffic), although they will support me in what I want to do.
The best answer would be no, but if it is still yes, my sister is 19, could she go? If still no, could I probably get it so that she could have legal guardian rights by law? I know I go to extreme measures but I'm putting myself fully out there, I'm co-leading a play in May at our school (which has a really good theatre dept).
I want this like no other. And I'm willing to go out and put myself completely into this.
Thanks a lot!!
Dearest Shahriar –
My, you are quite the ambitious young man, with a clear understanding of what you want to do with your life! I am very impressed with your focus.
I can completely understand your frustration at having to wait for that whole adulthood and independence thing to kick in, so you don’t totally have to depend on other people to get you around or watch out for you.
However, I’m afraid that, for another couple of years at least, you are still considered a minor in the eyes of the law, and that means there are still some very strict rules and regulations you and your parents need to be aware of.
You know, when I was little, there were very few laws governing the treatment of kids in the entertainment industry.
I must have been about 10 years old when I got my first major commercial, which was for a product called “Mealy Malt,” a hot wheat cereal. At that time, my mother had a job as a stenographer for a big bank president and he wouldn’t let her take any days off, just in case she needed to type an important letter or something.
So my mother had to drop me off at the television studio at 6am in the morning, and she just had to hope that I would be taken care of by the people there.
A very nice young lady, Lindy Phlugler, took me under her care, and made sure that I was taken to the makeup room, fitted for my costume, and that I had my lines memorized. I admitted that I was having trouble with my big tag line, “MMM!! That Mealy Malt Makes My Mouth Melt, Mom!”
After all that, I was hungry, but there wasn’t any kind of craft service back then. The only thing they had around was a number of boxes of “Mealy Malt.” So she fed me some of that.
It was delicious!!
Soon, it came time to shoot the commercial. In the ad, I was supposed to eat at least 2 spoonfuls of the delicious Mealy Malt. I was really good during each take, except for the tag line.
I would end up saying, “Mom! Mealy Malt Mouth Melting!,” or “Melting Mealy Malt Mouth, Mom!!!” or my favorite, “Mommy Melty Malty Mouthy!!!”
Well, the director started getting frustrated, and I kept having to do take after take. And eat spoonful after spoonful of Mealy Malt.
It stopped being so delicious. And I started to feel a bit queasy.
But I was a trooper!
I soldiered on, and finally, I got it right!
The only problem was that it was now 7:30 at night, and my mother, who ended up having to work late at the bank couldn’t come and pick me up until she was done.
I sat there at the station, with Linda, until 9 o’clock that night. With a stomach ache!
I don’t blame my mom for any of this, but let me tell you – I sure would have been happier if there had been some regulations in place to make sure I was taken care of!
Which brings me to some very important resources you and your parents need to be aware of before you start making your solo flights to Hollywood for auditions and jobs.
The first stop should be a visit to the California Labor Board website at http://www.dir.ca.gov/dlse/DLSE-CL.htm
It will give you a great breakdown on all of the information your parents will want to know about you becoming a professional actor.
You’re going to need a work permit. There is an application on the website to get one.
You’re also going to need to find out what the absence policy is at your school. Auditions happen during the day, during the school week. Are your folks okay with you missing school for them, or is this going to be just a summer thing for you? Most work is done during the school year, though, with the summer being generally quiet.
The website will also give you information about how you should be schooled while you’re working on set.
As for getting rides to auditions, any adult 18 or over, whom your parents think is responsible, can chauffeur you. Besides, the freeways in Los Angeles are crazy and until you are a bit older, I think you shouldn’t go alone.
If you DO end up booking a job (and I know you will!), I think it’s best that one of your parents accompany you to the set and stay with you. Shoots can be a very chaotic experience, and even though production companies will go out of their way to make sure you are safe and protected, I’ll bet they (and your parents) will feel better knowing they are there. Sometimes the day will go long, and your mom or dad can make the call whether you can stay a bit later or not.
The one thing you must remember is that the State of California is very strict in their laws, and for the most part, all production companies will follow them to the letter. Since your parents sound like they are very supportive, I hope they will not have a problem joining you as you pursue your dream.
So, check out the website with them. Go over all the options of what you need to do, plan your assault on the entertainment industry, and go out and be a SUCCESS!!
Despite the fact that I can no longer eat Mealy Malt, the commercial was a bit of a success. To this day when I mention that I was the child in that ad, people can still recite the immortal tag line – “MMM! That Mealy Malt Makes My Mouth Melt, Mom!”
Dear Donna Marie,
I am a new face in this acting market. I have loved this business since I was 6 years old and have only wanted to be an actress since the first time I saw "The Sound of Music" starring Julie Andrews. I've trained with several acting coaches and have learned a great deal. Still taking classes whenever I get the chance, time and money.
So far, I've gone on 38 auditions, I've had 2 call-backs (didn't book them though), but I've booked 3 jobs; a feature film, student film, and one PSA; all free-lancing. The experience was fantastic and I enjoyed the work. Now I've finally got an agent (not signed yet) and I've been sent on several auditions. I wait by the phone to hear whether I booked the job, or how did I do at the audition, what did they think of me, was I good, bad, or what?
What I really want to know is, Is it OK to call your agent after you've been on an audition and ask them what the clients thought about you? or just assume that since you didn't get a call-back or you didn't book anything they probably didn't like you.
This has happen more times than not ; and I rather know what I did wrong so I won't do it the next time I audition.
My age range is 13-17. I love this business so much, the rejections have made my confidence a little shaky, but my dream of booking that memorable commercial or being featured in that major movie keeps me hanging in there.
Any advice you can give a new kid on the acting block; I would so appreciate it so much.
You know, I think “The Sound of Music” has inspired more young women to go to Hollywood than it has to get them to join a convent!
Why is that, I wonder??
It’s probably for the best, though. Singing nuns kind of creep me out!
First of all, I am just so impressed with all of the young people who write in to me with such clear intentions of how to make it in this business. And I’m also impressed with the commitment you all have to doing it right!
So many people come to this town unprepared for the hard work and dedication necessary to build a lifelong career. To have a work ethic so early in your life is admirable, and I hope you can carry it with you in whatever else you do!
Ok, now that I’ve built up your ego, let’s take a couple of steps back.
Eagerness is nice, but you need to relax and take a breath here, Holly.
I must advise you to NEVER sit by the phone after an audition. There are so many amazing things to do in the world that it is a waste of time to hang around waiting for the phone to ring.
Because most of the time, it isn’t going to.
The next most important thing for you to get into your head is that just because you don’t get a callback, or the job, doesn’t mean that you are a bad actor. Or that they didn’t “like” you.
There are many, many factors that go into who gets cast in a film or commercial. Some of the time, talent doesn’t even enter into it!
The producers may have a certain “look” in mind, or they decide the look they wanted all of a sudden ISN’T the look they wanted. Maybe the producer scrapped the idea for the ad, or they eliminated the role.
The list goes on and on.
Now let’s talk about calling your agent for feedback.
You are certainly within your rights to ask your agent about feedback, but I certainly don’t recommend calling them after each audition! That would put you on the outs with them right away.
Often, though, your agent won’t even get feedback from the casting director. They are simply too busy to hand-hold each agency when they’re auditioning up to 150 actors per day!
What I would do is wait a period of time – say a few months after signing with them. Go on your auditions. DON’T wait by the phone. See what kind of response you’re getting from your auditions- are you getting callbacks? Have you booked any jobs?
If after that time, you still have questions, or want some feedback, set up a meeting with your agent and ask if a.) they have received any feedback on your auditions, and b.) what they think you can do to improve your success rate in the casting studio.
Your agent should be very glad to take this kind of OCCASIONAL meeting. They will start frowning on you, however, if you call and ask for one every week or month.
The bottom line is this - You’re going to go on a LOT of auditions in your life. I mean, a LOT! And guess what? You’re not going to book many of them.
The life of the actor is one of constant rejection, and you’re going to have to build up your inner strength not to let that overwhelm you or shake your confidence. You just have to pick yourself up and move on to the next one.
And the next one.
And the next one.
And so on…
I wish you all the best, Holly!
Go get ‘em!
And now, we head into the blistering Hollywood Heat of the summer!
But just because it’s getting warmer outside, doesn’t mean the questions should stop coming!
If you’ve got a question, or even have more suggestions for my readers, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
I do my best to answer each and every one of you!
Bring it on, as they say!
In the meantime, I wish you much joy and success!!
Donna Marie Watkins